Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird are important animals for marketers!

If you heard about SEO and you’ve done a little bit of it, then chances are that you heard about these three animals. Sure, they’re very important for our earth’s ecology, but they’re the most important Google algorithms for SEO ranking and hence for marketers.

In its basic sense, Google’s ranking algorithm started as a keyword density checker in its raw form. The higher the frequency of a word in a website, the stronger its association with the website and rank. And, when the websites are stuffing keywords everywhere, Google realized it needs a lot more than just density checker. So, it started including a lot of other heuristics such as unique content, content clusters, referring backlinks, density of referring domains, age, click-through ratios, etc. and it releases these new updated algorithms every year to ensure that it is atleast one step ahead of the cheaters inventing cheat codes to rank higher and higher on its search engine results page.

Each year, it is said that Google is releasing more than 600 updates to its search ranking engine. Three such most important algorithm updates were: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird. Below is a list of all the important updates that impact the search engine result pages (SERPs).


Initial release date: February 2011

The purpose behind the Google Panda update was to bring high-quality content to the forefront and filter out low-quality content.

According to Google’s updated Quality Rater Guidelines, low-quality pages are those with either not enough main content to satisfy the reader or those where the content creator lacks expertise in the topic. Panda will also filter out duplicate content. This can happen when you have multiple pages on your website containing the same text or minimal variation.

Tip: Check your site regularly for content duplication and thin content. Tools like SEMRush are useful for this.


Initial release date: April 2012

Google Penguin focused on improving the user experience by looking at the quality of the links within websites. In particular, it targeted two specific areas: link schemes and keyword stuffing.

Link schemes refer to backlinks from low-quality or unrelated websites. They create a false picture of popularity and relevance in an attempt to trick Google into giving the page a higher ranking. An example would be if you were to add comments on forums or unrelated third-party articles linking to your website as the “best manufacturing company in the country”.

Keyword stuffing simply means ‘stuffing’ a webpage with large numbers of keywords or repetitive keywords to make it appear more relevant to specific search phrases.

Tip: Check your backlinks – a tool like Moz can help you here. And while it certainly pays to optimise your web content with keywords, only use them when it feels natural.


Initial release date: August 2013

While Panda and Penguin were updates, Hummingbird was a complete rework of the entire algorithm. It was introduced to help Google better understand user search queries so they could present them with content that more accurately matched their intent. Many SEO professionals see Hummingbird as the start of Google’s switch from a keyword to a topic focus.

Tip: If you haven’t already, it’s time to familiarize yourself with topic clusters.


Initial release date: December 2014

Pigeon is all about location. It was designed to help improve the user experience when searching for something in a specific location.

Tip: Creating content that associates your business with a specific location will strengthen your authority as a resource in that area.


Initial release date: April 2015

Well, Google got bored of animal names and desserts. This one may seem pretty boring in comparison to those listed so far. But from a mobile user perspective, it’s pretty brilliant. Google’s mobile update was designed to ensure that when searching on mobile, helpfully, the most mobile-friendly pages rank at the top.

Tip: Check out this handy tool from Google to see how mobile-friendly your web pages are.


Initial release date: October 2015

Part of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, RankBrain uses machine learning technology to deliver more accurate search results based on user intent.

Tip: Ensure you clearly state the purpose of the content, who it is written for, and what it should be used to achieve so that machine learning tools can easily uncover the relevance and meaning of your content.


Initial release date: September 2016

This update was never officially confirmed by Google but appears to impact local finder results. Here, the searcher’s location comes in to play. The closer a person is to your business’s address, the more likely they are to see it among local results. However, it also appears that this update boosted the ranking of companies outside the geographical area too.

Tip: Make sure you’re using targeted location keywords.


Initial release date: March 2017

Similarly to Google Panda, Fred aims to filter out low-quality or thin content, as well as pages that appear to focus purely on revenue and not users.

Tip: Keep an eye out for thin content. And if you use ads, make sure they are coupled with high-quality, relevant information.

Google Ads is taking away control from users slowly in being hungry for more revenues. Google has realized that it has a lot of advertisers who are accurately using negative keywords, single keyword campaigns, exact keywords, etc. that give a lot of control to users. It is now saying “my way or the highway” to the users, and cutting down on controls. The reason it is selling to advertisers is that AI knows better on how to maximize conversions for you and where to advertise and how much to spend. I am not sure about it, but this is the direction that Google is taking to gain more ad revenues.

Hope this is useful, thank you.